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Right Turn
Posted at 11:05 AM ET, 03/24/2011

Why is Huntsman running for president?

There are improbable 2012 presidential candidates and then there are delusional ones. In the former category you could put Rick Santorum, who lost his state by almost 20 points. In the latter belongs former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Christian Heinze writes in the Hill:

His ties to the president have raised eyebrows among prominent, mainstream and ostensibly neutral Republicans. . . .

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) delivered a much more stinging attack in an interview with Real Clear Politics, saying: “Huntsman won’t play well here. Huntsman won’t play well anywhere, because Huntsman’s only barely a Republican.”

If there’s going to be one consistent attack on Huntsman, it will be on the friends he’s made and the praise he’s earned.

It’s not simply that he served in the Obama administration. In China. At a time when conservatives are outraged over President Obama’s deference to despots. Beyond that, Republicans know (or will know once they figure out who Huntsman is) that he wasn’t all that conservative to begin with. It is not just his support for civil unions that upset social conservatives:

He also earned kudos from environmentalist groups like the Sierra Club for joining the Western Climate Initiative — a move that outraged some Republicans in the state’s Legislature and prompted a resolution condemning the impact it might have on small businesses.

Indeed, while visiting Utah in March 2009, Republican strategist Mary Matalin remarked to local media: “My advice to him is not to be so praised on the front page of The New York Times as often as he is. It’s not a good flag to wave for conservatives who he will need.”

This is like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) without the war record and without the bona fides on national security. And speaking of which, Huntsman’s hiring “key members from McCain’s team at the helm.” That alone is enough to freak out many in the base, who came to detest the McCain campaign crew for incompetency and disloyalty to its VP pick.

I’m trying to figure out who a “Huntsman voter” is. Rudy Giuliani attracted moderates before his campaign imploded (fizzled, actually). But he led New York through Sept. 11, governed like a no-nonsense fiscal conservative and offered up conservative positions on school choice, health care and tax policy. And he never served in a liberal president’s administration. Perhaps there is an untapped segment of the electorate to the left of Giuliani who doesn’t think that poorly of Obama. Unfortunately for Huntsman, they likely are Democrats.

You do have to wonder how Huntsman, an intelligent man with business experience, was sold on taking the plunge. And you really have to wonder how thrilled his family will be if he decides to risk a chunk of the family fortune.

By  |  11:05 AM ET, 03/24/2011

 
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